This One Thing in Your Yard Can Fend Off Black Widows, Study Says
Unfortunately, the very thing that could protect you presents its own risks.
Summertime means more than warm weather, cold drinks, and trips to the beach—in many places around the world, it also means encountering a whole host of pests you'd largely forgotten about during the colder months of the year. Unfortunately, this includes venomous spiders like black widows, which can be found in many U.S. states and territories, and whose bites can not only cause serious injury and impairment, but may even be fatal, particularly to children, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions.
However, a recent study suggests that there's a surprising deterrent that may keep these pests from seeking shelter near you. Read on to discover what could keep black widows from taking up residence in your space.
Fire ants may keep black widows out of your yard.
If you're worried about finding black widows on your property, you may want to look for signs of another pest first. According to a May 2021 study published in Royal Society Open Science, a sample of paper exposed to fire ants served as a significant deterrent to black widow spiders.
The study's researchers found that the biological chemicals left behind on the paper by the fire ants also significantly deterred false black widow spiders and hobo spiders and moderately deterred European garden spiders. However, neither black garden ants nor carpenter ants had the same effect.
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Fire ants are highly invasive and can cause health issues.
Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it's wise to encourage fire ants to take up residence on your property in a bid to reduce the likelihood of a black widow problem.
Imported fire ants are highly invasive and have infested more than 370 million acres of land in the U.S. and Puerto Rico since they first arrived on U.S. soil in 1918, according to the Ant Pest Community of Practice, a collective of members from regulatory agencies including the USDA APHIS, USDA ARS, local and national governments, and land-grant universities. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are now five times as many fire ants in the U.S. than there are in their South America.
In addition to rapidly spreading within virtually any area into which they are introduced, fire ant stings can lead to itching, swelling, pus-filled blisters and eventual scarring, and may lead to anaphylactic shock among allergic individuals.
Multiple states are under fire ant quarantines right now.
Fire ants are such a nuisance that multiple states—including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, and Virginia—have areas subject to fire ant quarantine right now.
In many of these areas, this means the transportation and sale of gardening materials, including but not limited to hay, soil, sod, potting media, and soil-moving equipment, is being either limited or banned to reduce the introduction of fire ants into new locales.
If you see a black widow, here's what to do.
If you want to keep black widows from taking up residence in your space, prevention is key. According to the National Pest Management Association, reducing clutter is a great way to limit the spaces black widow spiders can hide in, but wearing gloves when clearing said clutter is key to avoid being bitten if they are already nesting.
If you see black widows, silken egg sacks, or irregular webs near the ground on your property, call in an exterminator with experience in treating spider infestations. And if you happen to be bitten by a black widow, contact a medical professional or poison control immediately.